10/06/2013 5:55PM

Santa Anita: Aotearoa upsets Diamond Bachelor in Zuma Beach

Benoit & Associates
Aotearoa (right), Corey Nakatani up, catches Diamond Bachelor to win the Zuma Beach, giving trainer Leonard Powell his first stakes win since 2008.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Aotearoa, making his first start against open company, ended the unbeaten record of Diamond Bachelor with an upset win in Sunday’s $100,250 Zuma Beach for 2-year-olds on turf at Santa Anita.

Aotearoa ($28.60) closed along the rail in the stretch to catch 2-5 Diamond Bachelor in the final sixteenth of the one-mile race, winning by three-quarters of a length in 1:34.42. Got Shades, 8-1, finished third in the field of six.

Aotearoa gave trainer Leonard Powell his first stakes win at Santa Anita since Niagara Causeway won the Tokyo City Handicap in March 2008. Powell said after Sunday’s race that Aotearoa is not nominated for the Breeders’ Cup program, and is unlikely to start in the $1 million BC Juvenile Turf on Nov. 1.

Aotearoa was ridden by Corey Nakatani, who gained the mount after jockey Garrett Gomez informed track officials on Sunday that he was unable to make flight connections from Kentucky where he rode at Keeneland on Saturday.

Nakatani rode Aotearoa for the first time in the Zuma Beach Stakes. Sent off as the longest shot in a field of six, Aotearoa was last for the first six furlongs, well behind the pace of 22.53 and 45.76 seconds set first by Station House and then by Diamond Bachelor. Nakatani guided Aotearoa to the inside near the eighth pole. The gelding closed well to take the lead late. Home School finished fourth, followed by Indexical and Station House.

Diamond Bachelor had won a maiden race and the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf, both over a mile, at Del Mar during the summer. Trainer Patrick Biancone took the blame for the loss in the Zuma Beach.

“I thought this race would be easy,” he said. “I went easy on his training and it was a trainer’s mistake.”

The Zuma Beach was the first start on turf and first start around two turns for Aotearoa, who races for breeder Paul Viskovich. At Del Mar, Aotearoa started twice against California-breds, winning a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs, and finishing fourth as the 9-10 favorite in the I’m Smokin Stakes over six furlongs.

Powell blamed himself for the loss in the I’m Smokin, saying he designed a training program for Aotearoa geared toward two-turn races.

“I knew he’d be better going two turns,” he said. “The race at Del Mar, I didn’t train him enough for speed. I trained him more for stamina. The first race he was able to get away with it because he was against maidens.”

Aotearoa, a California-bred by Good Journey, has won 2 of 3 starts and $114,000.